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Sweden Democrats: Anti-immigration party with neo-Nazi roots on course to become second biggest in general election

Sweden Democrats have attempted to distance themselves from their white nationalist past

Peter Stubley
Wednesday 05 September 2018 16:53 BST
Jimmie Akesson, leader of the Sweden Democrats, on a campaign visit to Gothenburg last week
Jimmie Akesson, leader of the Sweden Democrats, on a campaign visit to Gothenburg last week (Reuters)

A right-wing populist party with roots in the neo-Nazi movement is set to receive nearly 20 per cent of the vote in the Swedish general elections, according to the latest polls.

The Sweden Democrats are predicted to become the second largest group in parliament behind the centre-left Social Democrats.

It would potentially give them the power to bring down any government that does not give them a say on immigration policy.

Neither of the two main coalitions on the left and right are expected to achieve a majority, and so far all of the parties in the Riksdag have ruled out working with the Sweden Democrats.

"It is hard to claim that there will be any real winners emerging from the 2018 Swedish elections," said Emanuel Ortengren, a researcher with the Timbro thinktank based in Gothenburg.

"Most of all, the election provides an illustration of the rise of nationalism and the demise of social democracy."

​Yascha Mounk, the author of a book warning of the dangers of populism, has described the rise of the Sweden Democrats as a "stunning development".

"Social Democrats have historically been extremely strong in Sweden, and built an impressive welfare state over the years," he said.

"So if Social Democrats do as badly as expected, it is an especially resonant sign that social democracy is in deep crisis across the continent."

Torbjörn Larsson, a professor of political science at Stockholm University, warned of a period of "parliamentary chaos" in an interview with the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet

"We will get a focus on the political game, rather than what policy should be pursued in the long term," he said.

He claimed the most likely outcome was the current minority government would continue for a short period until a new coalition could be agreed.

"It is likeliest we will see a single-party, Social Democrat government," added Nick Aylott, a political scientist at Sodertorn University.

Polls by YouGov have suggested the Swedish Democrats would gain as much as 25 per cent of the vote, potentially overtaking the Social Democrats to become the largest party.

Others carried out for the major newspapers in the country show between 16 and 20 per cent - putting them either in second or third behind the Moderates.

The "poll of polls", based on an average of all recent results, shows a drop in support for the Sweden Democrats from 21 per cent to 18.6 per cent since the beginning of July.

It also suggests the Social Democrats have climbed to 25.2 per cent while the Moderates have fallen to 17 per cent.

Jimmie Akesson, leader of the Sweden Democrats, received his worst score so far in a televised debate with other leaders on Tuesday, at 2.87 out of five.

Concerns about immigration have also been overtaken by environmental issues in the week leading up to the election, according to a survey for the Expressen newspaper.

Matthew Goodwin, a British academic specialising on populism and elections, said the Sweden Democrats has relied on "a fairly standard apocalyptic-style narrative" about crime, no-go areas, national decline and incompetent politicians.

"It's not that national populism reflects an abandonment of democracy," he said. "It reflects the fact that people want a different conception of democracy. One where 'the people' get 'more voice' while 'elites' get less. This is a legitimate request. We need to keep it in perspective."

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